Seminar - Amy King on imperialism, industrialisation and war: the role of ideas in China's Japan policy, 1949-1965

Contemporary Sino-Japanese relations are scarred by the legacy of the Second World War (known in China as the “War of Resistance against Japan”). Yet in the aftermath of this devastating war, the People’s Republic of China attempted to build a close economic relationship with Japan. By 1965, at a time when the two countries were still situated on opposite sides of the Cold War divide, Japan had become China’s largest trade partner. How did China’s policy-makers conceive of Japan in the wake of the Second World War, and how did these ideas shape China’s foreign economic policy towards Japan? To answer these questions, I use a four-part ideas framework that shows how Chinese policy-makers’ background, foreground, cognitive and normative ideas about Japan shaped China’s Japan policy between 1949 and 1965. Drawing on hundreds of recently declassified Chinese-language archival records from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I argue that China’s experience of Japanese imperialism, industrialisation and war during the first half of the twentieth century deeply shaped Chinese ideas about Japan after 1949, though in ways that at first seem counterintuitive. Although Japan had waged a brutal war against China, Chinese policy-makers viewed Japan as an important source of industrial goods, technology and expertise, and a symbol of a modern, industrialised nation-state. I show how Chinese ideas about Japan help to explain China’s policy of ‘trading with the enemy’, the actors involved in shaping China’s Japan policy after 1949, and the impact of ‘mistaken’ Chinese ideas about Japan.

About the Speaker

Amy King is a Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. She completed her PhD in International Relations at the University of Oxford in 2012.

After the Seminar

To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by drinks at the Fellows Bar at University House and a dinner beginning at 6:30pm with the guest speaker at the Red Chilli Restaurant. All are welcome, though due to budget limitations, participants will need to pay for their own drinks and food.

As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon on the day before the seminar to Jasmine: if you are interested in attending dinner. There is no need to RSVP for drinks.

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute